2022 Budget allocations for Coorg

Karan Muthanna
Talakaveri Widlife Sanctuary
View of Talakaveri Wildlife Sanctuary | Image: Deep Chengappa

Wrap-Up and notes on the 2022 Karnataka budgetary allocation for Coorg.

Model University:

Coorg will be one of the district where a model university will be set-up. This “model university” will be functioning with a thin staff and will use IT infrastructure for functioning.

5 Crore of Apiculture, 10 Crore for development of Kodava Community and a research center for Arebhase Gowdas.

To encourage and support honey production, 5 crore has been allocated for Coorg Honey and Jamboti honey. A research center has been sanctioned at Mangalore University for Arebhase Gowdas who are not only found the neighboring Sullia taluk, but also have a sizeable population in Coorg. 10 crore has been allocated for the development of Kodava Community. The funds will be used for what kind of development is not known.

MLC Veena Achaiah is not quite pleased with the budget as it did not feature the establishment of a Sports University & Kodava Development Board, similar to the Brahmin Development Board. She was quoted in the Indian Express stating:

“Establishment of Sports University and the Kodava Development Board have not found any place in the state budget. There are many weaker sections indigenous to the district and they have not received any support in the budget. Establishment of Kodava Development Board was the need of the hour to ensure development and protection of the Kodava community. But this has been ignored despite several requests from residents.”

Coffee planters are also unhappy as their request for free electricity for 10 HP Pump sets has been ignored.

5 Crore for conservation of reserve forests and 100 crore to address the Man-Elephant conflict.

A measly 5 crore has been allocated for conservation and development of reserve forests which come under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Environmentalists have pointed out that the sum is too less to restore reserve forests that have been devastated by human intervention. Many reserves have been encroached and there is no political will to clear the encroachments due to vote bank politics. Also many people have misused the Forest Rights Act to encroach upon forest land.

The 100 crore to address the Man-Elephant conflict has been allocated for constructing fences on railway crossings, some of which crisscross the forests. This even after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its ‘Report No. 5 of 2021 — Compliance Audit on Union Government (Railways) year ended March 2019’ — had stated that:

railway collisions were the second largest cause of unnatural deaths of 61 elephants between 2016 and 2019 across the country.

There has been a strong opposition to the proposed railway line to Coorg. Environmentalists claim it will only exacerbate the man-elephant conflict further.

Retired Indian Forest Officer, B K Singh has been quoted in Indian Express, stating:

“Man-animal conflict too needs much more than Rs 100 crore provided for barricading areas where train tracks pass. In addition to barricades, a number of other steps like habitat restoration, corridors conservation and frequent tracking by staff etc are required to minimize the conflicts.

Stating his reasons for objections, he explained, “Forests have been continuously subjected to degradation on account of diversion of forests for development projects, illicit felling of trees, grazing, encroachments and forest fires etc. To stop further acceleration of the ill effects is quite challenging. The nexus between bureaucrats and politicians have been encouraging local communities to clear forests and claim rights under the Forest Rights Act. Every time the election is announced, forests are occupied and the rights are claimed and politicians across party lines support it to lure the voters.”

Heliports for Tourism & Connectivity:

Too boost tourism and provide air connectivity to Coorg, the budget has proposed “Heliports” at Coorg. A helicopter ride to Coorg is an expensive affair. Private players like Blade are charging Rs 16,000/per person + taxes, for a one-way ticket to Coorg. Tourists who have booked luxury resorts in Coorg, should be able to afford the ride. But it doesn’t help the general public of Coorg or the tourists who travel to Coorg on a budget. Instead of heliports, the government should fast track the work for the mini airport at Kushalnagar that is coming under the Udan Scheme. Surely, a large section of people from Coorg and tourists will be able to afford the UDAN charge of Rs 2500/per person for the ride.

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